Jewellery capturing the roaring 1920s, the spirit of Africa and classic-car cool

Citroën’s striking sculptures of Congolese tribal women take shape in sterling silver

Nobosudru ring by Julie Bazin, €340
Nobosudru ring by Julie Bazin, €340 | Image: Bernard Canonne

Car-related jewellery seldom extends beyond the realms of novelty cufflinks designed for men. But now Parisian artisan Julie Bazin has produced a sterling-silver jewellery range for women based on one of the most distinctive of all automobile-inspired images – La Femme Mangbetu.

La Croisière Noire sculpture in bronze (40cm long), €9,600
La Croisière Noire sculpture in bronze (40cm long), €9,600 | Image: Steffi Sauter
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The pieces are inspired by a creation of Bazin’s grandfather, the celebrated sculptor and car mascot designer François Bazin, which commemorated the 1924/25 “Croisiere Noire” expedition, in which eight-tracked Citroën Kegresse vehicles were driven 28,000km across central Africa. The 17-strong team returned after 10 months to a triumphant reception in Paris, where exhibitions were organised to display some of the 300 plant samples, 800 birds, 1,500 insects, 6,000 photographs and 9km of film that was collected along the way.

La Favorite earrings, €460
La Favorite earrings, €460 | Image: Bernard Canonne
Mangbetu earrings, €650
Mangbetu earrings, €650 | Image: Bernard Canonne

The event caused a sensation and led Citroën to commission Bazin to create an image that spoke of Africa, its beauty and its people – the resulting “Femme Mangbetu” sculpture being the stylised rendition of a woman of the Congolese Mangbetu called Nobosudru, which was made into mascots and used to illustrate the posters for the exhibition.

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Julie Bazin grew up surrounded by mementos of her grandfather, including stone sculptures, bronzes, drawings and the many famous mascots he created for vehicle marques such as Hispano Suiza, Latil and Unic. Having recently launched a range of collector’s bronze art editions of the mascots, she has now turned her attention to La Femme Mangbetu (also available in the form of a bronze) to produce the 15-piece “Nobosudru” jewellery line that ranges from pendants and bracelets at €160 to rings, bangles and earrings costing up to €650. The items variously portray Nobosudru, elements of her headdress and other tribal attire.

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